Outside of fireworks, the biggest attraction during Oak Harbor’s Fourth of July celebration is the grand parade.
Just don’t tell that to Pepper.
Pepper, a beagle mix, is one of 17 dogs that will strut down Pioneer Way 2 p.m. Thursday, July 4.
Oak Harbor’s largest celebration of the year will include some new touches, including a pet parade, as the city continues to try to improve the event and keep the peace with downtown merchants.
With the grand parade entering its third year of traveling a new route away from the traditional path down Pioneer Way, events were added this year to entice visitors to spend more time in historic downtown.
Windjammer Park remains a focal point of Oak Harbor’s Independence Day celebration, which attracts thousands of visitors. It is the site of the carnival, the bulk of the vendors and musical entertainment.
It is a popular landing spot after the grand parade, which starts at 11 a.m. The addition of new events along Pioneer Way is giving visitors another place to hang out and have fun. It also takes away some of the sting downtown merchants felt after the parade was rerouted away from Pioneer Way during and after it was changed to a one-way street.
Safety concerns over the narrowed street led to the parade getting rerouted down Bayshore Drive and bypassing the city’s historic downtown core before reconnecting to Pioneer at a further stretch.
Kathy Reed took over as director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce in February and began working with the Oak Harbor Downtown Merchants Association to create new Fourth of July events to lure visitors to Pioneer Way.
Among the new events is an apple pie bake-off at 1 p.m. and a chalk art contest for kids.
The pet parade will accept entries until 1 p.m. on July 4. Call 360-679-3760.
The pet parade is free.
The one-way street portion of Pioneer Way will close to vehicles and allow only foot traffic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 4.
Vendors are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Windjammer Park and on Pioneer Way.
The carnival opens at 4 p.m. July 3 and last through July 7.
Oak Harbor Rotary organizes the grand parade. The grand marshall is longtime Oak Harbor resident Ron Wallin, owner of P&L General Contractors.
John Geisenhoff, parade chairman, said 85 to 110 entries are expected, including dignitaries from city, county and state government and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
Notably missing this year will be a military flyover, cut because of federal sequestration.
“In fact, we can’t even get a Humvee,” said Geisenhoff, noting that was another familiar sight in past parades.
Military representation will be strong, however, including base commander Mike Nortier and the Navy and Marine Corp League Color Guards.
Reed said that most of the $14,000 needed for the fireworks show, which starts at dusk, was raised thanks to donations by businesses and residents.
“I’m very pleased,” Reed said. “Last year, they had to dive into savings to pay for the fireworks. This year, we’ve not had to do that. That’s a huge success in my book. People really stepped up and contributed.”